SN 22.53 (1) Engagement
At Sāvatthī. “Bhikkhus, one who is engaged is unliberated;69 one who is disengaged is liberated. Consciousness, bhikkhus, while standing, might stand engaged with form; based upon form, established upon form, with a sprinkling of delight, it might come to growth, increase, and expansion. Or consciousness, while standing, might stand [engaged with feeling … engaged with perception …] engaged with volitional formations; based upon volitional formations, established upon volitional formations, with a sprinkling of delight, it might come to growth, increase, and expansion.70
69 Engaged: one who has approached (upagato) the five aggregates by way of craving, conceit, and views.
70 The passage is quoted at DN III 228,6-13 in explanation of the “four stations of consciousness” (catasso viññaṇaṭṭhitiyo ); see too Nidd II 1. We find here still another indication of how consciousness grows and evolves in dependence on the other four aggregates. This sutta and the next should be compared with 12:38-40, 12:64, and 22:3. As to why consciousness is not “engaged” with itself, see above n. 19, which makes essentially the same point.
“Bhikkhus, though someone might say: ‘Apart from form, apart from feeling, apart from perception, apart from volitional formations, I will make known the coming and going of consciousness, its passing away and rebirth, its growth, increase, and expansion’—that is impossible.
“Bhikkhus, if a bhikkhu has abandoned lust for the form element, with the abandoning of lust the basis is cut off: there is no support for the establishing of consciousness.71 If he has abandoned lust for the feeling element … for the perception element … for the volitional formations element … for the consciousness element, with the abandoning of lust the basis is cut off: there is no support for the establishing of consciousness.
“When that consciousness is unestablished, not coming to growth, nongenerative,  it is liberated.72 By being liberated, it is steady; by being steady, it is content; by being content, he is not agitated. Being unagitated, he personally attains Nibbāna. He understands: ‘Destroyed is birth, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more for this state of being.’”
72 Anabhisaṅkhacca vimuttaṃ. The “nongenerative consciousness” is the consciousness that does not generate volitional formations (saṅkhāra). it is “liberated” because it does not generate rebirth.
Feelings, sensations – vedanā: pleasant / unpleasant / neutral feelings, are not consciousness.
Perceptions, thoughts – saññā: thought images are not consciousness. It is sixfold as perception of the 5 physical sense-objects and of mental objects. It is the awareness of an object’s distinctive marks (“one perceives blue, yellow, etc.,”). If, in repeated perception of an object, these marks are recognized, it functions as ‘memory’.
Volitional formations – sankhāra: thinking, will, memory, ideas, beliefs, life positions also are not consciousness – these are mental objects / constructions.
Internal, gross and inferior is the sense-consciousness:
“‘Bhikkhu, this person consists of six elements.’ So it was said. And with reference to what was this said? There are the earth element, the water element, the fire element, the air element, the space element, and the consciousness element. So it was with reference to this that it was said: ‘Bhikkhu, this person consists of six elements.’
External, subtle and superior is the viññāna nidāna, or at best descended (avakkanti) [established] in the nāmarūpa nidāna; but definitely not in the saḷāyatana nidāna.
“Friend, with the purified intellect-consciousness (manoviññāṇena) detached from the five faculties (eye, ear, nose, …,) the dimension of the infinitude of space can be known [as] ‘infinite space.’ The dimension of the infinitude of consciousness can be known [as] ‘infinite consciousness.’ The dimension of nothingness can be known [as] ‘There is nothing.’
“And then, with the complete transcending of the dimension of the infinitude of space, [perceiving,] ‘Infinite consciousness,’ the monk enters & remains in the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness. His earlier perception of a refined truth of the dimension of the infinitude of space ceases, and on that occasion there is a perception of a refined truth of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness. On that occasion he is one who is percipient of a refined truth of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness. And thus it is that with training one perception arises and with training another perception ceases.
Consciousness that is not manifested (becoming visible) (viññanam anidassanam),
luminous all around:
Here water, earth, fire, & wind have no footing.
Here long & short
coarse & fine
fair & foul
name & form
are, without remnant,
brought to an end.
of (the activity of) consciousness,
each is here brought to an end.
See also SN 12.64
“‘Consciousness that is not manifested, endless, radiant all around, has not been experienced through the earthness of earth … the liquidity of liquid … the fieriness of fire … the windiness of wind … the allness of the all.’
(Note that the”All” adresses the world of senses).
In summary, there are two kinds of consciousnesses, so to speak.
– Consciousness as the cause (nidāna) of nāmarūpa (the third “link” of paṭiccasamupāda), and
– Sense- consciousness in Saḷāyatana – such as eye-consciousness, etc. (see the visual aid below).
In the first case: “From the origination of consciousness comes the origination of name-&-form,” (as nāmarūpa nidāna). In the second case: “From the origination of name-&-form comes the origination of (sense) consciousness.” (SN 12.65)
However these two “consciousnesses,” come to the designation of consciousness aggregate:
Any consciousness whatsoever — past, present, or future; internal or external; gross or subtle; inferior or superior; near or far — that is the consciousness aggregate.
Name-&-form is the cause & condition for the discernibility of the (sense) consciousness aggregate.
(Consciousness that is not becoming visible, or not manifestated)
Nidassana = Nidarśana
Viññanam anidassanam = Consciousness that is not becoming visible (invisible) [that is not manifested].
निदर्शन nidarśana [agt. nidṛś]
निदृश् nidṛś [ni-dṛś]
√ दृश् dṛś or dṛṣ [var. paś]
– to see, behold, look at (RV., AV., ŚBr.)
– to be seen, become visible (RV., AV., ŚBr.)
– to be shown, manifested (MBh.)
It corresponds to viññana nidāna, when there is no more establishing of consciousness.
That is to say:
When there is no more maintenance of consciousness (SN 12.11 – SN 12.39)
When there is no descent of consciousness in Nama-rupa (SN 12.59), and the ensuing process.
Not only is viññāṇa nidassana not visible(without manifestation); but to be beholden, it should not become visible (in the process of descending into the “world” of senses).
Skandhas (Sanskrit) or khandhas (Pāḷi) means “heaps堆, aggregates蕴, collections集, groupings类”. This concept implies an underlying pure consciousness without aggregation and without manifestation. Khandhas refers to the five aggregates of clinging (Pancha-upadanakkhanda), the five bodily and mental factors that take part in the rise of craving and clinging. They are also explained as the five factors that constitute and explain a sentient being’s person and personality, but this is a later interpretation in response to sarvastivadin essentialism.
The five aggregates or heaps are: form (or matter or body) (rupa), sensations (or feelings, received from form) (vedana), perceptions (samjna), mental activity or formations (sankhara), and consciousness (vijnana).
In the Theravada tradition, suffering苦 arises when one identifies with or clings to the aggregates蕴执着. This suffering is extinguished by relinquishing attachments to aggregates. The Mahayana tradition asserts that the nature of all aggregates is intrinsically empty of independent existence五蕴皆空.
Ajajjaraṃ dhuvaṃ apalokitaṃ,
Anidassanaṃ nippapañca santaṃ.
Not decaying, permanent, to behold (अवलोक् avalok) unmanifested, free from development of/in the sensory world, peaceful.
Ayañhi, bhante, ākāso arūpī anidassano.
Tattha na sukaraṃ rūpaṃ likhituṃ, rūpapātubhāvaṃ
CONSCIOUSNESS TURNS BACK AT NAME & FORM
“This consciousness turns back; it goes no further than name-and-form …. when there is consciousness with name-and-form as its condition, AND name-and-form with consciousness as its condition.
“paccudāvattati kho idaṃ viññāṇaṃ nāmarūpamhā na paraṃ gacchati …. nāmarūpapaccayā viññāṇaṃ; viññāṇapaccayā nāmarūpaṃ.” (SN 12.65)
Let’s see first how consciousness is the condition for name-and-form. And then we”ll see how name-and-form becomes the condition for consciousness. First of all, the “big picture”.
The process usually goes this way:
External stimulus from an external āyatana >> descent of the indriya in the internal āyatana >> sense-consciousness >> contact >> feeling >> perception >> thoughts & mental concretism (vitakka & vicāra) >> manosañcetanā >>maintenance of consciousness >> descent of consciousness in the nāmarūpa’s khandhas >> descent of nāmarūpa in saḷāyatana (particularly the external ones) >> external stimulus from an external āyatana.
So on and so forth. Again and again.
And if, basically, one does not restrain the indriyāni, and therefore intends, plans, and have a tendency towards (ceteti – pakappeti – anuseti – SN 12.39), this vicious circle “turns back” ; that is to say that it does not allow consciousness to reach the higher nidānas, but instead, the all nāmarūpa shebang (in satta,) maintains consciousness – and consciousness has therefore name & form as its condition. (see fig.1 below).
Let’s see what is said in the early suttas, (common to the early Buddhist schools (viz. with parallels)), about the above process.
When consciousness is established and has come to growth, there is a descent of name-and-form (in saḷāyatana).
Tasmiṃ patiṭṭhite viññāṇe virūḷhe nāmarūpassa avakkanti hoti.
With name-and-form as condition, the six sense bases come to be.
Let’s summarize what we have seen up to now, (backed up by suttas with parallels):
First, consciousness is the condition for nāmarūpa:
We have seen that, when consciousness is established and has come to growth, there is a descent of name-and-form. And that the six sense bases come to be.
Once in sāḷayatana, the forms and dhammas of the Nāma-Rūpa nidāna get “sensualized” in the external āyatanāni – (saḷāyatana being the fields (aka sense-bases) of sensory experiences).
For instance, a guitar delivers a sensuous sound. Or a flower a sensuous smell, etc.
When the external āyatanāni reach the internal āyatanāni, there is a sense-consciousness – and this is called “contact (phasso).
Phasso appears only in the definition of nāma, in the Nikāya suttas (e.g. SN 12.2). Not in the Chinese and Sanskrit texts. But there is no incompatibility in that.
It is important to understand that the definition of Nāma, in the Āgamas (SĀ 298), [the same than the Sanskrit Arv 5], and the definition in the Nikāyas (SN 12.2), are not conflictual.
In SĀ 298, Nāma = viññāṇa, saṅkhāra, vedanā and sañña (idem for Arv 5); while
In SN 12.2 Nāma = phasso, vedanā, sañña, cetanā and manasikāro.
It is just a matter of where you situate yourself, when analysing Nāma.
Are you in (saḷāyatana + satta,) the “world” of senses – or are you oustside the “world” of senses. (for an extensive definition of the Buddhist “world” see SN 35.82 (SĀ 231)).
Note: for instance we know that there are two feelings – the “outside of the world” feeling, in the saṅkhāra nidāna. And there is also the “inside the world (of senses)” feeling; that is to say, the feeling nidāna proper (in satta > see the “big picture” visual aid).
We started with consciousness as the condition for name-and-form, (When consciousness is established and has come to growth, there is a descent of name-and-form).
And up to now, we are still concerned with the “Nāma-Rūpa nidāna” part of the descent. The Nāma-Rūpa of the definition from the Āgama and the Sanskrit text. That is to say forms and dhammas from the Nāma-Rūpa nidāna (that get “sensualized”) – AND a consciousness khandha, from the Nāma-Rūpa nidāna, that changes to a sense-consciousness.
However, it is really the “Nikāya” style of Nāma-Rūpa, that will be responsible for making Nāma-Rūpa the condition for consciousness. That is to say: phasso, vedanā, sañña, cetanā and manasikāro (as per SN 12.2 definition of Nāma-Rūpa).
And we must wait that this “new” nāmarūpa leaves saḷāyatana to reach Satta proper.
Note also that the “contact” and “feeling” links, although still “sensorial” are not of the domain of saḷāyatana anymore; which makes the Nāma of the Nikāyas, definitely outside the range of saḷāyatana.
Let’s see now how Nāma-Rūpa really becomes the condition for consciousness:
We know that clinging-khandhas, are an appropriation of Nāma-Rūpa nidāna’s khandhas.
So we are still dealing with the same khandhas that are in the definition of Nāma-Rūpa nidāna’s components in SĀ 298 and Arv 5. That is to say: the form aggregate (khanda) affected by clinging, the feeling aggregate affected by clinging, the perception aggregate affected by clinging, the formations aggregate affected by clinging, and the consciousness aggregate affected by clinging (MN 23).
Might “affected by clinging” be better translated as: the “appropriated” aggregate (khandha) of form, etc.
When someone through contact (after a sense-consciousness), has felt and perceive a feeling from a form – and appropriated the three – making them clinging-khandhas – the suttas/sutras tell us that there are still synergies (saṅkhāras) under the form of cetanā (ceteti), and other devising (“mind-making” – manasikārā) things like planning (pakappeti), tendencies towards (anuseti), developments (papañcas), etc.
Let’s see, for instance what intention (cetanā) does when combined with mano.
Note that intention (cetanā), is not the only factor that allows a support (basis-footing) for the maintenance (continuing of state = stay) of consciousness. But in the fig. 4 below, the thing is so obvious, that this particular instance is worth showing.
As I just said, other factors applies also; like in SN 22.54, where it is said that the feeling element, allows also a support for the maintenance of consciousness.
So, it is said like below, (in SN 12.11 and SN 12.39,) that cetanā, combined with mano (manosañcetanā), does allow the maintenance of consciousness.
And that is just just how Nāma-Rūpa, becomes the condition for consciousness – A consciousness that has just to establish itself again in the Nāma-Rūpa nidanā.
Nāma-Rūpa, becomes the condition for consciousness, through the clinging (appropriated) khandhas (that is to say, the appropriated Āgamas khandhas – AND as well, through the process of the the Nikayas’ components; particularly the mano (manasi) part.
ESTABLISHING OF CONSCIOUSNESS
(patiṭṭhā viññāṇassa )
“Bhikkhus, when one dwells contemplating gratification in things that can fetter,
there is a descent of consciousness (viññāṇassa avakkanti).
With consciousness as condition, name-and-form comes to be….”
SN 12.39: (also 12.38)
Bhikkhus, what one intends, and what one plans, and whatever one has a tendency towards: this becomes a support (basis-footing) for the maintenance (continuing of state: stay) of consciousness.
Yañca, bhikkhave, ceteti yañca pakappeti yañca anuseti, ārammaṇametaṃ hoti viññāṇassa ṭhitiyā.
When there is a support, there is a foundation [a firm dwelling to strive, prosper & spread from] for the establishing of consciousness.
Ārammaṇe sati patiṭṭhā viññāṇassa hoti.
When consciousness is established and has come to growth, there is a descent of name-and-form.
Tasmiṃ patiṭṭhite viññāṇe virūḷhe nāmarūpassa avakkanti hoti.
With name-and-form as condition, the six sense bases come to be
Avakkanti: (f.) [fr. avakkamati] entry, appearance, coming down into, opportunity for rebirth S ii.66 (nāmarūpassa) iii.46 (pañcannaṁ indriyānaṁ).
Avakkamati & okkamati; [ava + kamati fr. kram] to approach. to enter, go into or near to, to fall into, appear in.
Ārammaṇa: primary meaning “foundation”
Also: support, help, footing, expedient, anything to be depended upon as a means of achieving what is desired, i. e. basis of operation.
The form element, householder, is the home of consciousness; (idem for other khandhas).
Rūpadhātukho,gahapati, viññāṇassa oko.
One whose consciousness is shackled by lust for the form element (etc.), is called one who roams about in a home
Rūpadhāturāgavinibandhañca pana viññāṇaṃ ‘okasārī’ti vuccati.
SN 22.53 – (54 & 55)
Consciousness, bhikkhus, while standing, might stand engaged with [combined, connected] form; based [supported] upon form, established upon (attached to, supported by, landing on,) form – with a sprinkling of delight, it might come to growth, increase, and expansion..
Upayo bhikkhave, avimutto, anupayo vimutto, rūpūpayaṃ vā bhikkhave, viññāṇaṃ tiṭṭhamānaṃ tiṭṭheyya, rūpārammaṇaṃ rūpappatiṭṭhaṃ nandūpasecanaṃ vuddhiṃ virūḷahiṃ vepullaṃ āpajjeyya
(idem with each khandha).
Ārammana: support. [see SK: √ लम्ब् lamb (foundation , base KaṭhUp.) OR आरम्भण ārambhaṇa [act. ārabh] [ ā-rámbhaṇa ]: the act of taking hold of , seizing , using, the place of seizing, a handle ChUp. AitBr. KātyŚr. // Ārambaṇa आरम्बण : support ChUp. ]Tiṭṭheyya: potential of Tiṭṭhati: to stand.
Patiṭṭhā: see SK: प्रतिष्ठा pratiṣṭhā & √ स्था sthā)
Ūpaya: Upayuñjati，[upa + yuj] to combine，connect with.
Bhikkhus, if a bhikkhu has abandoned lust for the form element, with the abandoning of lust the basis is cut off: there is no support for the establishing of consciousness.
Rūpadhātuyā ce bhikkhave, bhikkhuno rāgo pahīno hoti, rāgassa pahānā vocchijjatārammaṇaṃ, patiṭṭhā viññāṇassa na hoti.
(Idem for each khandha dhatu).
When that consciousness is unestablished, not coming to growth, nongenerative, it is liberated. By being liberated, it is steady; by being steady, it is content; by being content, the monk is not agitated. Being unagitated, he personally attains Nibbāna.
Tadappatiṭṭaṭhitaṃ viññāṇaṃ avirūḷhaṃ anabhi saṅkhacca vimuttaṃ, vimuttattā ṭhitaṃ ṭhitattā santusitaṃ, santusitattā na paritassati aparitassaṃ paccattaṃ yeva parinibbāyati.
Bhikkhus, though someone might say:
‘Apart from form, apart from feeling, apart from perception, apart from volitional formations,
I will make known the coming and going of consciousness,
its passing away and rebirth, its growth, increase, and expansion’
that is impossible.
The lust for khandhas (form > feeling > perception > saṅkhāra > consciousness), drives one to intend, to plan and to have a tendency towards more of “these” ( .viz, “of this process” – namely: form > feeling > perception > saṅkhāra > consciousness – or more particularly, one “of its components” ).
These intentions, plans and tendencies, become the “basis for operation”, the footing (ārammaṇa), for the maintenance of consciousness.
This ārammaṇa, this footing, is the thing on which consciousness depends upon, as a means of achieving what it “desires”; namely its maintenance.
In this case, the consciousness is maintained (ṭhitiyā). The consciousness stands.
Consciousness, while standing, might be engaged with (ūpaya), based upon (ārammaṇa), and established upon (patiṭṭha) form – or another khandha (e.g. feeling: vedanūpayaṃ, vedanārammaṇaṃ, vedanappatiṭṭhaṃ, …).
Wherever consciousness gets attached to a particular khandha – when there is lust for a particular khandha (e.g. form) – the khandha becomes the new basis (ārammaṇa – e.g. rūpārammaṇaṃ). The khandha becomes the thing on which consciousness depends upon, as a means of achieving what it “desires”; namely its establishment.
Consciousness 1. gets attached to (gets engaged with) – 2. is supported by – and 3. lands on (gets established upon) form, or another khandha, in Namarūpa.
The form (or another khanda) element, is the home (oko) of consciousness .
This is the establishment of consciousness (patiṭṭhā viññāṇassa).
And with the addition of delight (nanda), consciousness grows and expands.
With the (necessary “foundation” for the) establishment of consciousness, there is a descent of consciousness (viññāṇassa avakkanti) [This is what is called: “When there is consciousness, name-and-form comes to be; name-and-form has consciousness as its condition – in SN 12.65] – then there is a descent (avakkanti) of name-and-form (nāmarūpa), with all its khandhas – and the the six fields of sensory experience (saḷayātana) come to be in satta (man) – (with its being (asmi) – that is “said of” nāmarūpa; and now, present in satta).
The sensory experience starts with a sense-consciousness in saḷāyatana – [This is what is called: “When there is name-and-form, consciousness comes to be; consciousness has name-and-form as its condition.“] .
Then there is contact, feeling, perception, cetanā (intention) – And this intention is the basis for the maintenance of consciousness (see SN 12.39 above) – So consciousness gets established again, descends in nāmarūpa, which descends in saḷāyatana; again and again in a vicious circle.
The vicious circle keeps going on; unless there is no more lust for khandhas; particularly clinging khandhas.
If there is no lust, then consciousness gets unestablished, is not coming to growth, is nongenerative, it is liberated. By being liberated, it is steady; by being steady, it is content; by being content, the monk is not agitated. Being unagitated, he personally attains Nibbāna.
Note: Consciousness in Buddhism is not as complicated as in western philosophy. It can be simply defined as: “Is known”.
To understand both type of consciousness, namely:
1. “manifest (generative)” consciousness > viññāṇa nidanā; that gets attached to the khandhas (as defined in SN 22.53 above)
2. “saḷayātana” consciousness (a.k.a. sense-consciousness) > e.g. eye-consciousness, … intellect-consciousness; that gets attached to the clinging-khandhas and some nutriments (as defined in SN 12.64)
(Development of the (sensory) “world”)
papañca = prapañca
प्रपञ्च prapañca [pra-pañca] (√ 1. pac , or pañc)
– the expansion of the universe , the visible world Up.
पञ्च् √ pañc or √ pac
– to spread out Dhātup.
– the developing world ŚBr. ŚvetUp
In AN 4.173, one can read:
– one proliferates that which is not to be proliferated (Bodhi)
– objectifies non-objectification (Thanissaro)
– “He creates proliferation [or speculations] in relation to something that should not be proliferated [or speculated about]. (Mp)
– proliferating the unproliferated (Sujato)
Knowing the definition of the “world” in Buddhism (SN 35.82), one could also translate appapañcaṃ papañceti as:
“He develops (expands) the undeveloped (sensory world).
“Friend, as far as the range of the six bases for contact extends, just so far extends the range of proliferation. As far as the range of proliferation extends, just so far extends the range of the six bases for contact. With the remainderless fading away and cessation of the six bases for contact there is the cessation of proliferation, the subsiding of proliferation.”
Yāvatā, āvuso, channaṃ phassāyatanānaṃ gati tāvatā papañcassa gati; yāvatā papañcassa gati tāvatā channaṃ phassāyatanānaṃ gati. Channaṃ, āvuso, phassāyatanānaṃ asesavirāganirodhā papañcanirodho papañcavūpasamo”ti.
could also be translated as:
“Friend, as far as the range of the six fields of sensory experiences for contact extends, just so far extends the range of the developing world (of senses). As far as the range of the developing world (of senses) extends, just so far extends the range of the six fields of sensory experiences for contact. With the remainderless fading away and cessation of the six fields of sensory experiences for contact, there is the cessation of the developing world (of senses) , the subsiding of the developing world (of senses) ”.
And the Agama parallel (SA 249), would also translate as:
But if one says that after the extinction of the six sense-spheres of contact, and the fading away of desire, after cessation, after ending, there is fading away of all “development of the sensory world” *, and the attaining of nirvāṇa, then this is the teaching of the Buddha.”
(* Here the translator renders it as “meaningless argument” – however, “argument” or “dialogue” is a post-Buddha’s term for papañca in Sanskrit literature).
Whoever has given up development of the sensory world,
Delighting in the path free of development of the sensory world,
Is blessed with nibbāna,
The unexcelled safety from the yoke.
MA 15 & EA 40, the parallels of MN 18, do not adress the issue of papañca.
Instead of papañcasaññāsaṅkhā, MA for instance, speaks in praise of detachment in regard to past,
present, and future phenomena.
The commonality between the MN & the MA/EA is about the presence of sense & object & consciousness.
Which seems to agree with the SN 35.82 & SA 231 definition of the “world”, as covered above.
Papañca is just about developing the sensory “world”. And that is what the very few suttas with parallels are concerned with.
And as far as Snp 4.14 is concerned:
Having considered the root of the development of the (sensory) “world”,
He should consider preventing all (notion of) “I am”.
He should train, always mindful,
to dispel any craving inside him.
Mantā asmīti sabbamuparundhe;
Yā kāci taṇhā ajjhattaṃ,
Tāsaṃ vinayā sadā sato sikkhe.
This shows that it has obviously to do with the “I”. (see SN 22.47 and its almost perfect parallels).
Dispel the “I am this” (external), then the “I am”. The latter being the factor of the development of the (sensory) “world” – of papañca.
AN 8.30 is about not developing the “world” (of senses) [nippapañca].
SN 35.94 does not have a parallel for this extract, but could be translated as follow:
Papañcasaññā itarītarā narā,
Papañcayantā upayanti saññino;
Man, by all sorts of perception and development of the (sensory world),
become less perceptive by the fetter of developing the (sensory) “world”.
Also, SN 35.248 has no parallel for the following extract; but could be translated as follow:
‘Asmī’ti, bhikkhave, papañcitametaṃ, ‘ayamahamasmī’ti papañcitametaṃ, ‘bhavissan’ti … pe … ‘na bhavissan’ti … ‘rūpī bhavissan’ti … ‘arūpī bhavissan’ti … ‘saññī bhavissan’ti … ‘asaññī bhavissan’ti … ‘nevasaññīnāsaññī bhavissan’ti papañcitametaṃ.
These are all development of the (sensory) world: ‘I am’, ‘I am this’, ‘I will be’, ‘I will not be’, ‘I will have form’, ‘I will be formless’, ‘I will be perceptive’, ‘I will be non-perceptive’, ‘I will be neither perceptive nor non-perceptive.’
A “sense experience” is when the external sphere of senses (bāhirani āyatanāni) reach the internal spheres of senses (ajjhattikānī āyatanāni). By the way, these “spheres of senses” – or “sense bases”, are better translated through “fields of sensory experiences”.
This happens when, for instance, the appearance of a tree, reaches the eye, (or more precisely the “field or ground of experience” that is the eye – viz. the sight as “experience”).
A genuine Buddhist should not get hold of that sight, because, said Buddha, unwholesome states of covetousness or displeasure might invade him.
But how & why does one get a hold on a sight to that extent? What is the process involved?
In Buddhism, a “sense experience” involves primarly these āyatanāni (āyatanāni = plural of āyatana), and their indriyani (plural for indriya), which are the faculties attached to these ayatanani. We will call them indriya and ayatana, for simplification purpose, from now on.
इन्द्रिय indriya is basically a power. It is the faculty attached to an ayatana. This means that, without that power, the ayatana (the field of experience) is inactive, so to speak. You could think of indriya as the seed that goes on the field (ayatana) to produce a tree (sense experience).
Or another metaphor would be the muscle (ayatana) of this poor frog that you dissected in your natural science class, and on which you applied an electrical current (indriya) to produce a reflex (sense-experience).
Without indriya (power/faculty,) there is no active ayatana, and therefore no sense-experience.
There is what is called a descent (avakkanti) of the indriya (power), in the empty, neutral & inert ability that is the internal āyatana. (see in this extract in SN 35.238, how these internal ayatana (called here: internal sense bases,) are defined as void, hollow, empty (and then “attacked” (SN 35.238) by agreeable and disagreeable forms [like the tree of our example – ugly or beautiful – creating a feeling of repulsion or attraction]).
Forms, feelings (khandhas in general), but also the internal ayatanas, that are not “ours” says the Buddha. (SN 22.33 – SN 35.138).
Note: In echt-Buddhism, sense-experience is always a bad occurrence per se; for the mere reason that if it is good, it might trigger some covetousness – and if it is bad, some enmity. A beautiful car, for instance, will certainly create a feeling of envy and jealousy; while an ugly car in your posh neighborhood, might create a feeling of disgust and enmity.
Buddha speaks a lot about restraining the indriya. It is called “keeping guard over the doors of the powers (faculties) > Indriyesu guttadvārā,” in the early Texts (Suttas).
In AN 6.55, Buddha recognizes that these indriya, these powers, these faculties, cannot be totally eradicated – but however brought to their plain, flat, regular, viz. normal level (see the definition of सम sama in the Monier-Williams Sanskrit dictionary for pre-Buddhist texts).
How do this indriya (e.g. the power, the faculty of sight,) descend (avakkanti) in the eye (more precisely, in the field of experience, that is the ayatana of “sight”), is expressed in SN 22.47.
And how to restrain (guard the door,) of this indriya, is explained by the following:
The less you identify yourself with the “self” – that is to say to identify with it (viz. the external – in our example the tree, and its external ayatana = form (rūpa) [see visual aid] – namely to make the external “yours,” and appropriate it as “this is me”, or “I am this” – then the less “infinite” is (the power of) the indriya.
Let’s take another example.
Let’s say that you are looking at a Picasso. You have the tendency to think that the sense-experience, and the feeling attached to it, is “yours”. But, in fact, it is Picasso’s feeling that you are experiencing. All that is asked from you, is to attach one of the three basic natures of feeling, that exist in Buddhism. Namely “pleasant,” “unpleasant,” and “neither, nor”. As Buddha said once, our body is just “made to be felt” (SN 12.37).
Identifying oneself with the external is a wrong view.
Identifying oneself with the internal is also a wrong view.
Both are stages to be aware of, and to get rid of.
But that is another story.
Just know that getting rid of the senses (“external”,) takes you to the “internal” – viz. to the *right* knowledge and the right use of the basic forms (earth, fire, water, & air), that is to say, to protect them (see the simile of the city – SN 35.245) .
Then, once you do not clung to these “form” (rūpa,) [first the external forms – then the internal forms,] you are able to get to the knowledge of the formless. So on and so forth. This is the process of liberation in Buddhism.
So, first get rid of the influence of the senses (through the restraint of the indriyani) – then know the internal forms (and don’t get caught into the outcome) – then know the formless (and don’t get caught into the outcome), etc. etc. Until you free yourself thoroughly.
This is a sense-experience, as per Buddha’s words in the Suttas (with parallels).
(Ground/Field of experience)
Why are so many people here afraid when the path has been taught with many āyatanani?
I ask you, O Gotama, broad of wisdom: on what should one take a stand to have no fear of the other world?”
Kiṃsūdha bhītā janatā anekā, Maggo canekāyatanappavutto;
Pucchāmi taṃ gotama bhūripañña, Kismiṃ ṭhito paralokaṃ na bhāye’’ti
“This puppet is not made by itself,
Nor is this misery made by another.
It has come to be dependent on a cause;
With the cause’s breakup it will cease.
“Nayidaṃ attakataṃ bimbaṃ,
nayidaṃ parakataṃ aghaṃ;
Hetuṃ paṭicca sambhūtaṃ,
“As when a seed is sown in a field
It grows depending on a pair of factors:
It requires both the soil’s nutrients
And a steady supply of moisture:
Yathā aññataraṃ bījaṃ,
khette vuttaṃ virūhati;
“Just so the aggregates and elements,
And these six āyatanani,
Have come to be dependent on a cause;
With the cause’s breakup they will cease.”
Evaṃ khandhā ca dhātuyo,
cha ca āyatanā ime;
Hetuṃ paṭicca sambhūtā,
He then taught me the Dhamma: Aggregates (khandhā), āyatanani (āyatanā), and elements (dhātu). Having heard the Dhamma from him, I went forth into homelessness.
So me dhammamadesesi, khandhāyatanadhātuyo Tassāhaṃ dhammaṃ sutvāna, pabbajiṃ anagāriyaṃ.
The birth of beings in the various orders of beings, their coming to birth, precipitation, generation, manifestation of the aggregates, obtaining the āyatanani for contact – this is called birth.
Yā tesaṃ tesaṃ sattānaṃ tamhi tamhi sattanikāye jāti sañjāti okkanti abhinibbatti khandhānaṃ pātubhāvo āyatanānaṃ paṭilābho, ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, jāti.
But with the remainderless fading away and cessation of ignorance that body does not exist conditioned by which that pleasure and pain arise internally; that speech does not exist conditioned by which that pleasure and pain arise internally; that mind does not exist conditioned by which that pleasure and pain arise internally. That field does not exist, that site does not exist, that āyatana does not exist, that foundation does not exist conditioned by which that pleasure and pain arise internally.”
Avijjāya tveva, ānanda, asesavirāganirodhā so kāyo na hoti yaṃpaccayāssa taṃ uppajjati ajjhattaṃ sukhadukkhaṃ. Sā vācā na hoti yaṃpaccayāssa taṃ uppajjati ajjhattaṃ sukhadukkhaṃ. So mano na hoti yaṃpaccayāssa taṃ uppajjati ajjhattaṃ sukhadukkhaṃ. Khettaṃ taṃ na hoti … pe … vatthu taṃ na hoti … pe … āyatanaṃ taṃ na hoti … pe … adhikaraṇaṃ taṃ na hoti yaṃpaccayāssa taṃ uppajjati ajjhattaṃ sukhadukkhan”ti.
SN 12.25 (see “Lexical references” below for khetta, vatthu and adhikaraṇa)
And how, bhikkhus, is a bhikkhu a triple investigator? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu investigates by way of the elements, by way of the āyatanani, and by way of dependent origination. It is in such a way that a bhikkhu is a triple investigator.
Kathañca, bhikkhave, bhikkhu tividhūpaparikkhī hoti? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu dhātuso upaparikkhati, āyatanaso upaparikkhati, paṭiccasamuppādaso upaparikkhati.
“So long, bhikkhus, as I did not directly know as they really are the gratification, the danger, and the escape in the case of these āyatanani, I did not claim to have awakened to the unsurpassed perfect enlightenment in this world with its devas, Mara, and Brahma, …
Yāvakīvañcāhaṃ, bhikkhave, imesaṃ channaṃ ajjhattikānaṃ āyatanānaṃ assādañca assādato, ādīnavañca ādīnavato, nissaraṇañca nissaraṇato yathābhūtaṃ nābbhaññāsiṃ … pe … paccaññāsiṃ.
“Bhikkhus, if a bhikkhu does not understand as they have come to be the origin and the passing away, the gratification, the danger, and the escape, in the case of these six āyatanani, then he has not lived the holy life; he is far away from this Dhamma and Discipline.”
“Yo hi koci, bhikkhave, bhikkhu channaṃ phassāyatanānaṃ samudayañca atthaṅgamañca assādañca ādīnavañca nissaraṇañca yathābhūtaṃ nappajānāti. Avusitaṃ tena brahmacariyaṃ, ārakā so imasmā dhammavinayā”ti.
Bhikkhu, you should clearly see the eye as it really is with correct wisdom thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’ Thus this first āyatana for contact will be abandoned by you for no future renewed existence. … pe …
…you should clearly see the mind as it really is …
bhikkhu, cakkhu ‘netaṃ mama, nesohamasmi na meso attā’ti evametaṃ yathābhūtaṃ sammappaññāya sudiṭṭhaṃ bhavissati. Evaṃ te etaṃ paṭhamaṃ phassāyatanaṃ pahīnaṃ bhavissati āyatiṃ apunabbhavāya … pe ….
… mano ‘netaṃ mama,…
Whatever, bhikkhus, is the extent of the aggregates, the elements, and the āyatanani, he does not conceive that, does not conceive in that, does not conceive from that, does not conceive, ‘That is mine.’
Yāvatā, bhikkhave, khandhadhātuāyatanaṃ tampi na maññati, tasmimpi na maññati, tatopi na maññati, taṃ meti na maññati.
“The eye, bhikkhus, as an āyatana for contact—if well tamed, well guarded, well protected, well restrained—is a bringer of happiness. The ear as an āyatana for contact …
Cakkhu, bhikkhave, phassāyatanaṃ sudantaṃ suguttaṃ surakkhitaṃ susaṃvutaṃ sukhādhivāhaṃ hoti … pe … jivhā,…
“Just six, O bhikkhus, are the āyatanani for contact,
Where one unrestrained meets with suffering.
Those who know how to restrain them
Dwell uncorrupted, with faith their partner.
“Saḷeva phassāyatanāni bhikkhavo,
Asaṃvuto yattha dukkhaṃ nigacchati;
Tesañca ye saṃvaraṇaṃ avedisuṃ,
And what, bhikkhus, are the six mastered āyatanani? Here, bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu has seen a form with the eye, there do not arise in him evil unwholesome states, nor any memories and intentions connected with the fetters. The bhikkhu should understand this thus: ‘This āyatana has been mastered. For this has been called a mastered base by the Blessed One.’
Katamāni ca, bhikkhave, cha abhibhāyatanāni? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno cakkhunā rūpaṃ disvā nuppajjanti pāpakā akusalā sarasaṅkappā saṃyojaniyā. Veditabbametaṃ, bhikkhave, bhikkhunā: ‘abhibhūtametaṃ āyatanaṃ’. Abhibhāyatanañhetaṃ vuttaṃ bhagavatāti … pe …
“Therefore, bhikkhus, that āyatana should be understood, where the eye ceases and perception of forms fades away. That āyatana should be understood, where the ear ceases and perception of sounds fades away.… That āyatana should be understood, where the mind ceases and perception of mental phenomena fades away. That base should be understood.”
Tasmātiha, bhikkhave, se āyatane veditabbe yattha cakkhu ca nirujjhati, rūpasaññā ca nirujjhati, se āyatane veditabbe … pe … yattha jivhā ca nirujjhati, rasasaññā ca nirujjhati, se āyatane veditabbe … pe … yattha mano ca nirujjhati, dhammasaññā ca nirujjhati [ni+rundhati], se āyatane veditabbe”ti.
√ रुध् rudh – to sprout , shoot , grow RV.
“Bhikkhus, I do not say of all bhikkhus that they still have work to do with diligence in regard to the six āyatanani for contact, nor do I say of all bhikkhus that they do not have work to do with diligence in regard to the six āyatanani for contact.
“nāhaṃ, bhikkhave, sabbesaṃyeva bhikkhūnaṃ chasu phassāyatanesu appamādena karaṇīyanti vadāmi, na ca panāhaṃ, bhikkhave, sabbesaṃyeva bhikkhūnaṃ chasu phassāyatanesu nāppamādena karaṇīyanti vadāmi.
“I do not say of those bhikkhus who are arahants, whose taints are destroyed, who have lived the holy life, done what had to be done, laid down the burden, reached their own goal, utterly destroyed the fetters of existence, and are completely liberated through final knowledge, that they still have work to do with diligence in regard to the six āyatanani for contact. Why is that? They have done their work with diligence; they are incapable of being negligent.
Ye te, bhikkhave, bhikkhū arahanto khīṇāsavā vusitavanto katakaraṇīyā ohitabhārā anuppattasadatthā parikkhīṇabhavasaṃyojanā sammadaññāvimuttā, tesāhaṃ, bhikkhave, bhikkhūnaṃ chasu phassāyatanesu nāppamādena karaṇīyanti vadāmi. Taṃ kissa hetu? Kataṃ tesaṃ appamādena, abhabbā te pamajjituṃ.
“But I say of those bhikkhus who are trainees, who have not attained their mind’s ideal, who dwell aspiring for the unsurpassed security from bondage, that they still have work to do with diligence in regard to the six āyatanani for contact.
Ye ca kho te, bhikkhave, bhikkhū sekkhā appattamānasā anuttaraṃ yogakkhemaṃ patthayamānā viharanti, tesāhaṃ, bhikkhave, bhikkhūnaṃ chasu phassāyatanesu appamādena karaṇīyanti vadāmi.
“Bhikkhus, it is a gain for you, it is well gained by you, that you have obtained the opportunity for living the holy life. I have seen, bhikkhus, the hell named ‘Contact’s Sixfold Āyatanani.’ There whatever form one sees with the eye is undesirable, never desirable; unlovely, never lovely; disagreeable, never agreeable. … etc…
“Lābhā vo, bhikkhave, suladdhaṃ vo, bhikkhave, khaṇo vo paṭiladdho brahmacariyavāsāya. Diṭṭhā mayā, bhikkhave, chaphassāyatanikā nāma nirayā. Tattha yaṃ kiñci cakkhunā rūpaṃ passati aniṭṭharūpaṃyeva passati, no iṭṭharūpaṃ; akantarūpaṃyeva passati, no kantarūpaṃ; amanāparūpaṃyeva passati, no manāparūpaṃ.
“‘The empty village’: this is a designation for the six internal sense āyatanani. If, bhikkhus, a wise, competent, intelligent person examines them by way of the eye, they appear to be void, hollow, empty. If he examines them by way of the ear… by way of the mind, they appear to be void, hollow, empty.
Suñño gāmoti kho, bhikkhave, channetaṃ ajjhattikānaṃ āyatanānaṃ adhivacanaṃ. Cakkhuto cepi naṃ, bhikkhave, paṇḍito byatto medhāvī upaparikkhati rittakaññeva khāyati, tucchakaññeva khāyati, suññakaññeva khāyati … pe … jivhāto cepi naṃ, bhikkhave … pe … manato cepi naṃ, bhikkhave, paṇḍito byatto medhāvī upaparikkhati rittakaññeva khāyati, tucchakaññeva khāyati, suññakaññeva khāyati.
SN 35.238 (simile of the vipers – maybe one of the best summary of Buddhism).
“‘The near shore,’ bhikkhu: this is a designation for the six internal sense āyatanani. ‘The far shore’: this is a designation for the six external sense āyatanani. ‘Sinking in mid-stream’: this is a designation for delight and lust. ‘Getting cast up on high ground’: this is a designation for the conceit ‘I am.’
“‘Orimaṃ tīran’ti kho, bhikkhu, channetaṃ ajjhattikānaṃ āyatanānaṃ adhivacanaṃ. ‘Pārimaṃ tīran’ti kho, bhikkhu, channetaṃ bāhirānaṃ āyatanānaṃ adhivacanaṃ. ‘Majjhe saṃsādo’ti kho, bhikkhu, nandīrāgassetaṃ adhivacanaṃ. ‘Thale ussādo’ti kho, bhikkhu, asmimānassetaṃ adhivacanaṃ.
‘The six gates’: this is a designation for the six internal sense āyatanani.
‘Cha dvārā’ti kho, bhikkhu, channetaṃ ajjhattikānaṃ āyatanānaṃ adhivacanaṃ.
SN 35.245 (simile of the City – another best summary of Buddhism)
“Bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu’s mind has been subdued, well subdued, regarding the six āyatanani for contact, it then becomes inwardly steady, settled, unified, and concentrated.
bhikkhave, yato kho bhikkhuno chasu phassāyatanesu cittaṃ udujitaṃ hoti sudujitaṃ, ajjhattameva santiṭṭhati, sannisīdati, ekodi hoti, samādhiyati.
‘May I, with the destruction of the taints, in this very life realize for myself with direct knowledge the taintless liberation of mind, liberation by wisdom, and having entered upon it, may I dwell in it,’ he is capable of realizing it, … there being a suitable āyatana.
…tatra tatreva sakkhibhabbataṃ pāpuṇāti sati satiāyatane
MN 73, AN 3.101, AN 3.102
आयतन āyatana [act. āyat] n.
– resting-place , support , seat , place , home , house , abode TS. ŚBr. ChUp. AitBr.
– a sanctuary ChUp.
– the place of the sacred fire KātyŚr. ĀśvŚr. ĀśvGṛ.
आयत् āyat [ā-√ yat]
– to arrive , enter ; to adhere , abide ; to attain to RV. AV. ŚBr.
– to cause to arrive at or reach ŚBr. AitBr.
– to rest on , depend on ; to be at the disposition of MBh.
√ यत् yat [linked to yam] v.
– to seek to join one’s self with , make for , tend towards RV.
– to place in order , marshal , join , connect RV.
– to join, associate with, march or fly together or in line RV.
– to conform or comply with RV.
– to meet , encounter RV. Br.
– to join , unite RV.
√ यम् yam [linked to yat]
– to offer, confer , grant , bestow on, present with RV.
– to sustain , hold , hold up , support RV. Br. ChUp.
– to extend one’s self before AitBr.
– to stretch out , expand , spread , display , show RV.
– to give one’s self up to , be faithful to , obey RV.
– to fix , establish RV.
– near , near to , towards (the speaker)
(see SN 12.25 above)
Khetta [Vedic kṣetra, to kṣi]
– field； suitable place； a place where something is produced.
क्षेत्र kṣetra (√ kṣi )
– land , soil (RV. AV.)
– place , region (RV. AV. TS.)
√ क्षि kṣi
– to abide , stay , dwell , reside RV.
– to inhabit TBr.
– to remain , be quiet AV. ŚBr.
– to make a person live quietly RV.
– occasion for, reason, ground.
– basis, foundation, seat, substratum.
वस्तु Vatthu [Class．Sk．vastu, fr．√ vas] – lit．”ground”
– the seat or place of.
√ वस् vas
– to dwell , live , stop (at a place) , stay RV.
– to cause to exist , preserve ŚBr.
– to remain , abide with or in ŚBr.
Adhikaraṇa: [adhi + karaṇa]
– case，question，cause，subject of discussion.
अधिकरण adhikaraṇa [adhi-karaṇa]
– receptacle, support.
– above , over and above, besides.
– the act of making, doing, producing, effecting ŚBr. MBh.
Think of āyatana (ground/field of experience,) as the support of the indriya (faculty).
Think of one of your āyatana (eye for instance,) as the muscle of the frog you dissected in your natural science class; and on which you applied some electrical current (indriya). The capability of the muscle (e.g. reflex,) can only be expressed through this electrical current.
For instance, we know that cakkhu – the physical, as well as its “non-physical ability; that is to say “sight” – is the āyatana (support) of the indriya (faculty, power).
However – and this is important – this “sight” must be considered, not as the physical ability of “seeing”; but instead, as the ability of a mere sensory activity.
In other words, āyatana is just a physical & sensory field of experience, that is acquiring its sensory capability only when the indriya is triggered. (see SN 22.47 to understand how & why the indriya descends (avakkanti) in the āyatana).
The descent (avakkanti) of the indriya, in the āyatana, will trigger the resulting sensory experience – like the muscle will trigger a reflex.
Note that āyatana is the ground (field) of the sensory experience, and that the faculty of the organ; the faculty (the power,) of this field of experience that is the organ (cakkhu, sota, etc.), is the indriya.
Cakkhu (the eye,) for instance, is both the physical eye without its faculty (power); and “cakkhu” as a the physical “eye”, with its faculty.
What counts is not so much the physical eye (which operates all the time), but the sensory experience on thiis field of experience that is the āyatana, when triggered by the indriya.
Cakkhu is a general field (ground) of experience.
So when one reads the following:
Passati bhagavā cakkhunā rūpaṃ,
the Blessed One sees a form with the eye,
Chandarāgo bhagavato natthi.
yet there is no desire and lust in the Blessed One.
One cannot say from the above extract, that the Blessed One – because he restrains his faculties (indriyāni) – has lost his physical faculty of “seeing”. And that this is the reason why, he has no desire and lust?
It’s not the physical “sight” that counts. But the sensory “sight”.
It is all about the nature of the sensory experience, correlated to the order of magnitude of the indriya.
It is not so much the physical “sight” that is concerned; but the sensory experience itself, through this (physical) “sighting” ability.
It is the indriya, and the nature of what it yields as a sensory experience, that matters.
The less indriya, the less is the sensory experience; the less one has a defiled citta.
So one can say from the above extract, that the Blessed One – because he restrains his faculties (indriyāni) – has an experience proportional to its indriya.
The ability of the purely physical “sight” is just there, as a quite irrelevant interface.
It is the nature and amplitude of a particular sensory experience,
linked to the nature of a particular physical & sensorial organ (āyatana),
and induced by the intensity of the indriya,
“But, Uttara, how does Parasariya teach his disciples the development of the faculties?”
“Here, Master Gotama, one does not see forms with the eye, one does not hear sounds with the ear.
That is how the brahmin Parasariya teaches his disciples the development of the faculties.”
“If that is so, Uttara, then a blind man and a deaf man will have developed faculties, according to what the brahmin Parasariya says.
For a blind man does not see forms with the eye (cakkhunā), and a deaf man does not hear sounds with the ear (sotena).”
MN 152 (SA 282).
(constituted, supportive (grasp-able) element)
[with a soupçon of desire behind it]
“If he wants, he hears—by means of the divine ear-element, purified and surpassing the human—both kinds of sounds: divine and human, whether near or far. He can witness this for himself whenever there is an opening.
So sace ākaṅkhati: ‘dibbāya sotadhātuyā visuddhāya atikkantamānusikāya ubho sadde suṇeyyaṃ dibbe ca mānuse ca ye dūre santike cā’ti, tatra tatreva sakkhibhabbataṃ pāpuṇāti sati satiāyatane.
What do you think, brahmin, is there an element or principle of initiating (ārabbhadhātū) or beginning an action?”
“Just so, Venerable Sir.”
“When there is an element of initiating, are initiating beings clearly discerned?”
“Just so, Venerable Sir.”
“So, brahmin, when there is the element of initiating, initiating beings are clearly discerned; of such beings, this is the self-doer, this, the other-doer.
“What do you think, brahmin, is there an element of exertion (nikkamadhātu) … is there an element of effort (parakkamadhātu) … is there an element of steadfastness (thāmadhātu) … is there an element of persistence (ṭhitidhātu ) … is there an element of endeavoring (upakkamadhātū)?”
“Just so, Venerable Sir.”
“When there is an element of endeavoring, are endeavoring beings clearly discerned?”
“Just so, Venerable Sir.”
“So, brahmin, when there is the element of endeavoring, endeavoring beings are clearly discerned; of such beings, this is the self-doer, this, the other-doer.
Taṃ kiṃ maññasi, brāhmaṇa, atthi ārabbhadhātū”ti? “Evaṃ, bho”. “Ārabbhadhātuyā sati ārabbhavanto sattā paññāyantī”ti? “Evaṃ, bho”. “Yaṃ kho, brāhmaṇa, ārabbhadhātuyā sati ārabbhavanto sattā paññāyanti, ayaṃ sattānaṃ attakāro ayaṃ parakāro.
Taṃ kiṃ maññasi, brāhmaṇa, atthi nikkamadhātu … pe … atthi parakkamadhātu … atthi thāmadhātu … atthi ṭhitidhātu … atthi upakkamadhātū”ti? “Evaṃ, bho”. “Upakkamadhātuyā sati upakkamavanto sattā paññāyantī”ti? “Evaṃ, bho”. “Yaṃ kho, brāhmaṇa, upakkamadhātuyā sati upakkamavanto sattā paññāyanti, ayaṃ sattānaṃ attakāro ayaṃ parakāro.
I have not, brahmin, seen or heard such a doctrine, such a view as yours. How, indeed, could one—moving forward by himself, moving back by himself—say ‘There is no self-doer, there is no other-doer’?”
Māhaṃ, brāhmaṇa, evaṃvādiṃ evaṃdiṭṭhiṃ addasaṃ vā assosiṃ vā. Kathañhi nāma sayaṃ abhikkamanto sayaṃ paṭikkamanto evaṃ vakkhati: ‘natthi attakāro natthi parakāro’”ti.
“Friends, if he wanted to, a monk with psychic power (iddhimā), having attained mastery (vasippatta) of his mind (citta), could will that wood pile to be nothing but earth.
Why is that? There is earth-property in that wood pile, in dependence on which he could will that wood pile to be nothing but earth.
“If he wanted to, a monk with psychic power, having attained mastery of his mind, could will that wood pile to be nothing but water… fire… wind… beautiful… unattractive.
Why is that? There is the property of the unattractive in that wood pile, in dependence on which he could will that wood pile to be nothing but unattractive.”
“Ākaṅkhamāno, āvuso, bhikkhu iddhimā cetovasippatto amuṃ dārukkhandhaṃ pathavītveva adhimucceyya.
Taṃ kissa hetu? Atthi, āvuso, amumhi dārukkhandhe pathavīdhātu, yaṃ nissāya bhikkhu iddhimā cetovasippatto amuṃ dārukkhandhaṃ pathavītveva adhimucceyya. Ākaṅkhamāno, āvuso, bhikkhu iddhimā cetovasippatto amuṃ dārukkhandhaṃ āpotveva adhimucceyya … pe … tejotveva adhimucceyya … vāyotveva adhimucceyya … subhantveva adhimucceyya … asubhantveva adhimucceyya.
Taṃ kissa hetu? Atthi, āvuso, amumhi dārukkhandhe asubhadhātu, yaṃ nissāya bhikkhu iddhimā cetovasippatto amuṃ dārukkhandhaṃ asubhantveva adhimucceyyā”ti.
Again, the Tathāgata understands the world how it has come to be, with its numerous and diverse elements.
Puna caparaṃ, bhikkhave, tathāgato anekadhātuṃ nānādhātuṃ lokaṃ yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti.
Venerable sir, I have gained the knowledge of a trainer. May the Blessed One instruct me further,’ `Then Vaccha, you should develop two things further. Develop calm (samatha) and insight (vipassana). Vaccha, when calm and insight is developed, it conduces to experiencing the various elements.
“yāvatakaṃ, bhante, sekhena ñāṇena sekhāya vijjāya pattabbaṃ, anuppattaṃ taṃ mayā; uttari ca me bhagavā dhammaṃ desetū”ti.
“Tena hi tvaṃ, vaccha, dve dhamme uttari bhāvehi samathañca vipassanañca. Ime kho te, vaccha, dve dhammā uttari bhāvitā samatho ca vipassanā ca aneka dhātupaṭivedhāya saṃvattissanti.
And the devatās from ten world systems had for the most part assembled in order to see the Blessed One and the Bhikkhu Saṅgha.
dasahi ca lokadhātūhi devatā yebhuyyena sannipatitā honti bhagavantaṃ dassanāya bhikkhusaṃghañca.
This puppet is not made by itself, Nor is this misery made by another. It has come to be dependent on a cause, When the cause dissolves then it will cease.
As when a seed is sown in a field It grows depending on a pair of factors: It requires both the soil’s nutrients And a steady supply of moisture.
Just so the aggregates and elements, And these six bases of sensory contact, Have come to be dependent on a cause (motive); When the cause (motive) dissolves they will cease.
Nayidaṃ attakataṃ bimbaṃ, nayidaṃ parakataṃ aghaṃ; hetuṃ paṭicca sambhūtaṃ, hetubhaṅgā nirujjhati.
Yathā aññataraṃ bījaṃ, khette vuttaṃ virūhati; pathavīrasañcāgamma, sinehañca tadūbhayaṃ.
Evaṃ khandhā ca dhātuyo, cha ca āyatanā ime; hetuṃ (Sk. √ हि hi ) paṭicca sambhūtā, hetubhaṅgā nirujjhare”ti.
The Blessed One sat cross-legged in the air above that brahma, having entered into meditation on the fire element.
Atha kho bhagavā tassa brahmuno upari vehāsaṃ pallaṅkena nisīdi tejodhātuṃ samāpajjitvā.
“Whatever be the many desires and delights
That are always attached to the manifold elements,
The longings sprung from the root of unknowing:
All I have demolished along with their root.
“I am desireless, unattached, disengaged;
My vision of all things has been purified.
Having attained the auspicious supreme enlightenment
Self-confident, brahmin, I meditate alone.”
“Yā kāci kaṅkhā abhinandanā vā,
Anekadhātūsu puthū sadāsitā;
Sabbā mayā byantikatā samūlikā.
Svāhaṃ akaṅkho asito anūpayo,
Sabbesu dhammesu visuddhadassano;
Pappuyya sambodhimanuttaraṃ sivaṃ,
Jhāyāmahaṃ brahma raho visārado”ti.
“Drunk on poetry, I used to wander
From village to village, town to town.
Then I saw the Enlightened One
And faith arose within me.
“He then taught me the Dhamma:
Aggregates, sense bases, and elements.
Having heard the Dhamma from him,
I went forth into homelessness.
“Kāveyyamattā vicarimha pubbe,
Gāmā gāmaṃ purā puraṃ;
Saddhā no upapajjatha.
So me dhammamadesesi,
Tassāhaṃ dhammaṃ sutvāna,
And what, bhikkhus, is dependent origination?
‘With birth as condition, aging-and-death comes to be’: whether there is an arising of Tathagatas or no arising of Tathagatas, that element still persists, the stableness of the Dhamma, the fixed course of the Dhamma, specific conditionality.
Katamo ca, bhikkhave, paṭiccasamuppādo?
Jātipaccayā, bhikkhave, jarāmaraṇaṃ. Uppādā vā tathāgatānaṃ anuppādā vā tathāgatānaṃ, ṭhitāva sā dhātu dhammaṭṭhitatā dhammaniyāmatā idappaccayatā.
Bhikkhu, the Venerable Sāriputta has thoroughly penetrated that element of the Dhamma by the thorough penetration of which, if I were to question him about that matter with various terms and with various methods for up to seven days and nights, for up to seven days and nights he would be able to answer me with various terms and with various methods.
Sā hi, bhikkhu, sāriputtassa dhammadhātu suppaṭividdhā, yassā dhammadhātuyā suppaṭividdhattā divasaṃ cepāhaṃ sāriputtaṃ etamatthaṃ puccheyyaṃ aññamaññehi padehi aññamaññehi pariyāyehi, divasampi me sāriputto etamatthaṃ byākareyya aññamaññehi padehi aññamaññehi pariyāyehi.
And what, bhikkhus, is the diversity of elements?
The eye element, form element, eye-consciousness element; the ear element, sound element, ear-consciousness element; the nose element, odour element, nose-consciousness element; the tongue element, taste element, tongue-consciousness element; the body element, tactile-object element, body-consciousness element; the mind element, mental-phenomena element, mind-consciousness element.
Katamañca, bhikkhave, dhātunānattaṃ?
Cakkhudhātu rūpadhātu cakkhuviññāṇadhātu, sotadhātu saddadhātu sotaviññāṇadhātu, ghānadhātu gandhadhātu ghānaviññāṇadhātu, jivhādhātu rasadhātu jivhāviññāṇadhātu, kāyadhātu phoṭṭhabbadhātu kāyaviññāṇadhātu, manodhātu dhammadhātu manoviññāṇadhātu—idaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, dhātunānattan’ti.
SN 14.1 & SN 41.2
[SN 14.2 to SN 14.25]
Bhikkhus, to whatever extent I wish, with the divine ear element, which is purified and surpasses the human, I hear both kinds of sounds, the divine and human, those that are far as well as near. Kassapa too, to whatever extent he wishes, with the divine ear element, which is purified and surpasses the human, hears both kinds of sounds.
Ahaṃ, bhikkhave, yāvade ākaṅkhāmi dibbāya sotadhātuyā visuddhāya atikkantamānusikāya ubho sadde suṇāmi, dibbe ca mānuse ca, ye dūre santike ca. Kassapopi, bhikkhave, yāvade ākaṅkhati dibbāya sotadhātuyā … pe … dūre santike ca.
It is not the earth element, Kassapa, that causes the true Dhamma to disappear, nor the water element, nor the heat element, nor the air element. It is the senseless (stupefied, bewildered) people who arise right here who cause the true Dhamma to disappear.
Na kho, kassapa, pathavīdhātu saddhammaṃ antaradhāpeti, na āpodhātu saddhammaṃ antaradhāpeti, na tejodhātu saddhammaṃ antaradhāpeti, na vāyodhātu saddhammaṃ antaradhāpeti; atha kho idheva te uppajjanti moghapurisā [mogha – Sk. √ मुह् muh] ye imaṃ saddhammaṃ antaradhāpenti.
I didn’t approach the Blessed One by means of spiritual power, friend, nor did the Blessed One approach me by means of spiritual power. Rather, the Blessed One cleared his divine eye and divine ear element to communicate with me, and I cleared my divine eye and divine ear element to communicate with the Blessed One.
Na khvāhaṃ, āvuso, bhagavantaṃ iddhiyā upasaṅkamiṃ; napi maṃ bhagavā iddhiyā upasaṅkami. Api ca me yāvatā bhagavā ettāvatā dibbacakkhu visujjhi dibbā ca sotadhātu. Bhagavatopi yāvatāhaṃ ettāvatā dibbacakkhu visujjhi dibbā ca sotadhātū”ti.
The form element, householder, is the home of consciousness; one whose consciousness is shackled by lust for the form element is called one who roams about in a home. The feeling element is the home of consciousness … (idem for the rest of the khandhas).
And how, householder, does one roam about homeless? The desire, lust, delight, and craving, the engagement and clinging, the mental standpoints, adherences, and underlying tendencies regarding the form element: these have been abandoned by the Tathagata, cut off at the root, made like a palm stump, obliterated so that they are no more subject to future arising. Therefore the Tathagata is called one who roams about homeless. … (idem for the rest of the khandhas).
Rūpadhātu kho, gahapati, viññāṇassa oko. Rūpadhāturāgavinibandhañca pana viññāṇaṃ ‘okasārī’ti vuccati. Vedanādhātu kho, gahapati, …
Kathañca, gahapati, anokasārī hoti? Rūpadhātuyā kho, gahapati, yo chando yo rāgo yā nandī yā taṇhā ye upayupādānā cetaso adhiṭṭhānābhinivesānusayā te tathāgatassa pahīnā ucchinnamūlā tālāvatthukatā anabhāvaṃkatā āyatiṃ anuppādadhammā. Tasmā tathāgato ‘anokasārī’ti vuccati. Vedanādhātuyā kho, gahapati …
Householder, through the destruction, fading away, cessation, giving up, and relinquishment of desire, lust, delight, craving, engagement and clinging, mental standpoints, adherences, and underlying tendencies towards the form element, the mind is said to be well liberated. … (idem for the rest of the khandhas).
Rūpadhātuyā kho, gahapati, yo chando yo rāgo yā nandī yā taṇhā ye upayupādānā cetaso adhiṭṭhānābhinivesānusayā, tesaṃ khayā virāgā nirodhā cāgā paṭinissaggā ‘cittaṃ suvimuttanti’ vuccati. … Vedanādhātuyā… Etc.
If, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu’s mind has become dispassionate towards the form element, it is liberated from the taints by nonclinging. If his mind has become dispassionate towards the feeling element … (idem for the rest of the khandhas).
Rūpadhātuyā ce, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno cittaṃ virattaṃ vimuttaṃ hoti anupādāya āsavehi, vedanādhātuyā … etc.
Thus this way of regarding things and the notion ‘I am’ have not vanished in him. As ‘I am’ has not vanished, there takes place a descent of the five faculties – of the eye faculty, the ear faculty, the nose faculty, the tongue faculty, the body faculty. There is, bhikkhus, the mind, there are mental phenomena, there is the element of ignorance.
Iti ayañceva samanupassanā ‘asmī’ti cassa avigataṃ hoti. ‘Asmī’ti kho pana, bhikkhave, avigate pañcannaṃ indriyānaṃ avakkanti hoti – cakkhundriyassa sotindriyassa ghānindriyassa jivhindriyassa kāyindriyassa. Atthi, bhikkhave, mano, atthi dhammā, atthi avijjādhātu.
Bhikkhus, if a bhikkhu has abandoned lust for the form element, with the abandoning of lust the basis is cut off: there is no support for the establishing of consciousness. If he has abandoned lust for the feeling element … (idem for the rest of the khandhas).
Rūpadhātuyā ce, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno rāgo pahīno hoti. Rāgassa pahānā vocchijjatārammaṇaṃ patiṭṭhā viññāṇassa na hoti. Vedanādhātuyā ce, bhikkhave … etc.
And how, bhikkhus, is a bhikkhu a triple investigator? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu investigates by way of the elements, by way of the sense bases, and by way of dependent origination.
Kathañca, bhikkhave, bhikkhu tividhūpaparikkhī hoti? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu dhātuso upaparikkhati, āyatanaso upaparikkhati, paṭiccasamuppādaso upaparikkhati.
Whatever, bhikkhus, is the extent of the aggregates, the elements, and the sense bases, he does not conceive that, does not conceive in that, does not conceive from that, does not conceive, ‘That is mine.’
Yāvatā, bhikkhave, khandhadhātuāyatanā tampi na maññeyya, tasmimpi na maññeyya, tatopi na maññeyya, taṃ meti na maññeyya.
Householder, there exists the eye element, and forms that are agreeable, and eye-consciousness: in dependence on a contact to be experienced as pleasant, a pleasant feeling arises. There exists the eye element, and forms that are disagreeable, and eye-consciousness: in dependence on a contact to be experienced as painful, a painful feeling arises. There exists the eye element, and forms that are a basis for equanimity, and eye-consciousness: in dependence on a contact to be experienced as neither-painful-nor-pleasant, a neither- painful-nor-pleasant feeling arises.
(Idem for ear, …etc.)
It is in this way, householder, that the diversity of elements has been spoken of by the Blessed One.
Saṃvijjati kho, gahapati, cakkhudhātu, rūpā ca manāpā, cakkhuviññāṇañca sukhavedaniyaṃ. Phassaṃ paṭicca uppajjati sukhā vedanā. Saṃvijjati kho, gahapati, cakkhudhātu, rūpā ca amanāpā, cakkhuviññāṇañca dukkhavedaniyaṃ. Phassaṃ paṭicca uppajjati dukkhā vedanā. Saṃvijjati kho, gahapati, cakkhudhātu, rūpā ca manāpā upekkhāvedaniyā, cakkhuviññāṇañca adukkhamasukhavedaniyaṃ. Phassaṃ paṭicca uppajjati adukkhamasukhā vedanā … pe … saṃvijjati kho, gahapati, jivhādhātu, … etc.
Venerable sir, it was said by the Blessed One: ‘It is in dependence on the diversity of elements that there arises the diversity of contacts; in dependence on the diversity of contacts that there arises the diversity of feelings.’ How is this so, venerable sir?”
“Here, householder, having seen a form with the eye, a bhikkhu understands an agreeable one thus: ‘Such it is!’ There is eye-consciousness, and in dependence on a contact to be experienced as pleasant there arises a pleasant feeling. Then, having seen a form with the eye, a bhikkhu understands a disagreeable one thus: ‘Such it is!’ There is eye-consciousness, and in dependence on a contact to be experienced as painful there arises a painful feeling. Then, having seen a form with the eye, a bhikkhu understands one that is a basis for equanimity thus: ‘Such it is!’ There is eye-consciousness, and in dependence on a contact to be experienced as neither-painful-nor-pleasant there arises a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling.
“Further, householder, having heard a sound with the ear … mind.
“Vuttamidaṃ, bhante, bhagavatā: ‘dhātunānattaṃ paṭicca uppajjati phassanānattaṃ; phassanānattaṃ paṭicca uppajjati vedanānānattan’ti. Kathaṃ nu kho, bhante, dhātunānattaṃ paṭicca uppajjati phassanānattaṃ; phassanānattaṃ paṭicca uppajjati vedanānānattan”ti? “Idha, gahapati, bhikkhu cakkhunā rūpaṃ disvā ‘manāpaṃ itthetan’ti pajānāti cakkhuviññāṇaṃ sukhavedaniyañca. Phassaṃ paṭicca uppajjati sukhā vedanā. Cakkhunā kho paneva rūpaṃ disvā ‘amanāpaṃ itthetan’ti pajānāti cakkhuviññāṇaṃ dukkhavedaniyañca. Phassaṃ paṭicca uppajjati dukkhā vedanā. Cakkhunā kho paneva rūpaṃ disvā ‘upekkhāṭṭhāniyaṃ itthetan’ti pajānāti cakkhuviññāṇaṃ adukkhamasukhavedaniyañca. Phassaṃ paṭicca uppajjati adukkhamasukhā vedanā.
Puna caparaṃ, gahapati, bhikkhu sotena saddaṃ sutvā … pe … manasā.
I have made up this simile, bhikkhus, in order to convey a meaning. This is the meaning here: ‘The four vipers of fierce heat and deadly venom’: this is a designation for the four great elements—the earth element, the water element, the heat element, the air element.
Upamā kho myāyaṃ, bhikkhave, katā atthassa viññāpanāya. Ayañcettha attho – cattāro āsīvisā uggatejā ghoravisāti kho, bhikkhave, catunnetaṃ mahābhūtānaṃ adhivacanaṃ – pathavīdhātuyā, āpodhātuyā, tejodhātuyā, vāyodhātuyā.
I have made up this simile, bhikkhu, in order to convey a meaning. This is the meaning here: ‘The city’: this is a designation for this body consisting of the four great elements, originating from mother and father, built up out of boiled rice and gruel, subject to impermanence, to being worn and rubbed away, to breaking apart and dispersal. ‘The six gates’: this is a designation for the six internal sense bases. ‘The gatekeeper’: this is a designation for mindfulness. ‘The swift pair of messengers’: this is a designation for serenity and insight. ‘The lord of the city’: this is designation for consciousness. ‘The central square’: this is a designation for the four great elements—the earth element, the water element, the heat element, the air element. ‘A message of reality (according to how things have become)’: this is a designation for Nibbāna. ‘The route by which they had arrived’: this is a designation for the Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view … right concentration.”
Upamā kho myāyaṃ, bhikkhu, katā atthassa viññāpanāya. Ayañcettha attho: ‘nagaran’ti kho, bhikkhu, imassetaṃ cātumahābhūtikassa kāyassa adhivacanaṃ mātāpettikasambhavassa odanakummāsūpacayassa aniccucchādanaparimaddanabhedanaviddhaṃsanadhammassa. ‘Cha dvārā’ti kho, bhikkhu, channetaṃ ajjhattikānaṃ āyatanānaṃ adhivacanaṃ. ‘Dovāriko’ti kho, bhikkhu, satiyā etaṃ adhivacanaṃ. ‘Sīghaṃ dūtayugan’ti kho, bhikkhu, samathavipassanānetaṃ adhivacanaṃ. ‘Nagarassāmī’ti kho, bhikkhu, viññāṇassetaṃ adhivacanaṃ. ‘Majjhe siṅghāṭako’ti kho, bhikkhu, catunnetaṃ mahābhūtānaṃ adhivacanaṃ—pathavīdhātuyā, āpodhātuyā, tejodhātuyā, vāyodhātuyā. ‘Yathābhūtaṃ vacanan’ti kho, bhikkhu, nibbānassetaṃ adhivacanaṃ. ‘Yathāgatamaggo’ti kho, bhikkhu, ariyassetaṃ aṭṭhaṅgikassa maggassa adhivacanaṃ, seyyathidaṃ—sammādiṭṭhiyā … pe … sammāsamādhissā”ti.
“Venerable sir, it is said, ‘the removal of lust, the removal of hatred, the removal of delusion.’ Of what now, venerable sir, is this the designation?”
“This, bhikkhu, is a designation for the element of Nibbāna: the removal of lust, the removal of hatred, the removal of delusion. The destruction of the taints is spoken of in that way.”
Rāgavinayo dosavinayo mohavinayo’ti, bhante, vuccati. Kissa nu kho etaṃ, bhante, adhivacanaṃ: ‘rāgavinayo dosavinayo mohavinayo’”ti? “Nibbānadhātuyā kho etaṃ, bhikkhu, adhivacanaṃ: ‘rāgavinayo dosavinayo mohavinayo’ti. Āsavānaṃ khayo tena vuccatī”ti.
And what, bhikkhus, is the nutriment for the arising of the unarisen enlightenment factor of energy and for the fulfilment by development of the arisen enlightenment factor of energy? There are, bhikkhus, the element of arousal, the element of endeavour, the element of exertion: frequently giving careful attention to them is the nutriment for the arising of the unarisen enlightenment factor of energy and for the fulfilment by development of the arisen enlightenment factor of energy.
Ko ca, bhikkhave, āhāro anuppannassa vā vīriyasambojjhaṅgassa uppādāya, uppannassa vā vīriyasambojjhaṅgassa bhāvanāya pāripūriyā? Atthi, bhikkhave, ārambhadhātu nikkamadhātu parakkamadhātu. Tattha yonisomanasikārabahulīkāro—ayamāhāro anuppannassa vā vīriyasambojjhaṅgassa uppādāya, uppannassa vā vīriyasambojjhaṅgassa bhāvanāya pāripūriyā.
SN 46.2 & SN 46.51
“Bhikkhus, there may be alteration in the four great elements_ in the earth element, the water element, the heat element, the air element- but there cannot be alteration in the noble disciple who possesses confirmed confidence in the Buddha. Therein this is alteration: that the noble disciple who possesses confirmed confidence in the Buddha might be reborn in hell, in the animal realm, or in the domain of ghosts . This is impossible .
Siyā, bhikkhave, catunnaṃ mahābhūtānaṃ aññathattaṃ—pathavīdhātuyā, āpodhātuyā, tejodhātuyā, vāyodhātuyā—na tveva buddhe aveccappasādena samannāgatassa ariyasāvakassa siyā aññathattaṃ.
DHĀTU in SANSKRIT
The Sanskrit root is √ धा dhā.
– To appoint, establish, constitute (Ṛg Veda – Śatapatha Br.).
– To seize, take hold of, hold, bear, support (Ṛg Veda – Atharva veda).
– To make, produce, generate, create, cause, effect, perform, execute (Ṛg Veda – Taittirīya Br – Śvetāśvatara Up).
– to accept, obtain, conceive (especially in the womb), get, take (Ṛg Veda – Atharva veda – Brāhmaṇa).
Dhāman: the inmates of a house or members of a family, class, troop, band, host (Ṛg Veda).
Dhāman: manner, mode, tone, form, appearance (Ṛg Veda).
Dhāmaśas: according to place or order (Ṛg Veda).
Dhārāgraha a cup filled from flowing (Kātyāyana ṣrauta sūtra).
Dhāraka a receptacle or vessel for anything (Suśruta)
Dhāraṇa holding, bearing, keeping (in remembrance), retention, preserving, protecting, maintaining, possessing, having (Taittirīya Ar.).
Abhinidhāna placing upon (or into) (Kātyāyana ṣrauta sūtra – Śatapatha Br. – Ṛg V – Taittirīya S.).
Addhātama quite manifest (Aitareya Āraṇyaka.).
Ādhāna the place in which anything is deposited or rests (Śatapatha Br.).
– constituent part, ingredient (Ṛg Veda).
– layer, stratum (also dhāya) (Kātyāyana ṣrauta sūtra – Kauśika Sutras).
Tridhātu : the triple world (Ṛg Veda).
Sudhātu: well-founded, secure (Ṛg Veda).
Ayugdhātu: having an odd number of elements or component parts (Kātyāyana ṣrauta sūtra).
forms substantives of action or instrument – (and adjectives indicating possession).
Therefore, Dhātu might be considered as constituted elements making up a particular phenomena (e.g. world) – or just a primordial element (e.g. water).
A grounded manifestation of some kind.
Note that the grammarian Pāṇini (~6th–~4th century BCE), had came up with a lexicon of Sanskrit verbal roots named Dhatupatha (dhātu : धातु – pāṭha : पाठ ); where dhātu means “elements” or “verbal roots”, and pāṭha means “lecture” or “lesson”.
Note the common excerption “sa naḥ stuto – vīravad dhātu gomad” (RV. 1.190.8c, 7.23.6c; AV. 20.12.6c; GopBr. 2.4.2), usually translated as: “May he thus praised – make us possessed of progeny and cattle“, denotes a certain form of “desire and granting“.
It is not just an element, but it also includes the desire for that (existing) element.
avīra a-ví̄ra – sonless
vīravant vīrá-vant – possessed of son (cf. Macdonell)
This underlying meaning of dhātu is also found in:
RV. 10.11.2c & AV. 18.1.19c
iṣṭasya madhye aditir ni dhātu no bhrātā no jyeṣṭhaḥ prathamo vi vocati
May Aditi accomplish all that we desire, and may our eldest Brother tell us this as Chief.
tanūṣ ṭe vājin tanvaṁ nayantī vāmam asmabhyaṁ dhātu śarma tubhyam
Bearing thy body, Vajin, may thy body afford us blessing and thyself protection.
In the pre or post Buddha’s KaṭhUp. (definitely contemporary) many translators (like Radhakrishnan below) translate dhātu as “mind and the senses”, which seems to imply desire.
aṇor aṇīyān mahato mahīyān, ātmāsya jantor nihito guhāyām: tam akratuḥ paśyati vīta-śoko dhātu-prasādān mahimānam ātmanaḥ.
Smaller than the small, greater than the great, the self is set in the heart of every creature. The unstriving man beholds Him, freed from sorrow, through tranquillity of the mind (mano) and the senses (he sees) the greatness of the self.
Finally, in the late PraśnaUp. (around the common era), Bṛhaspati is the one who grants dhātu (desire)
svasti no bṛhaspatir dadhātu.
द da [agt. dā] = who grants.
Therefore, there seems to be an underlying meaning of “desire to be granted” beneath the usual definition of dhātu as “element or constituted elements making up a particular phenomena” – (might it be sort of elemental (mahābhūtāna rūpa), or constituted of more of these elements (upādāya), or else).
A dhatu might just be a desirably graspable dhamma. While a dhamma is being just a causally conditioned phenomena, from the khandhas.
“He (the Sambuddha) then taught me the Dhamma:
Aggregates, field of experiences, and elements”.
So me dhammamadesesi,